Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer looks down on the Cannon Rotunda on Wednesday as Members, staff and visitors sign condolence books for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others. He participated in a security briefing for Senate staff later in the day.
“We bunkered down around the Capitol and made it impossible to drive round this complex,” he said. “We’ve done all of that. We simply did not feel it politically possible to do it for our district staffs. And as a result of that, today they are vulnerable. Members in their districts are vulnerable. Our government at the district level is vulnerable and something needs to be done about it.”
Others Members agreed that law enforcement should be more vigilant and responsive.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said she has a “personal beef” that the FBI director in her district doesn’t engage enough with her and the community, and she called for more coordination.
Speaking to reporters after a briefing to almost 200 Senate staffers in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Morse said he encourages Members to contact him with any of their doubts.
“The important thing to me right now is not any criticism about that but actually finding out whether there is a threat or any interest in getting it resolved,” Morse said.
Morse, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer and FBI representatives told the staffers how to identify threats and minimize risks at district events, while another 360 offices streamed the meeting online, Gainer said.
He went through a packet called “Active Shooter, How to Respond,” and he advised staff gathered inside the briefing room that if they are presented with a situation where they are threatened by someone with a gun and are unable to escape or evade the situation, they should “attack.”
“Don’t sit around and wait to be shot,” Gainer said. “Attack. Attack loudly. And hopefully some good will come out of it to someone.”
Meanwhile, there were some flares of partisanship during the otherwise solemn day.
For instance, following the GOP’s security briefing, Rep. Louie Gohmert accused the FBI of purposefully withholding information from lawmakers about suspect Jared Loughner to hide ideological links to the Obama administration.
“It may be if the things he was reading, that he’s a liberal, hates the flag, supports Marx, if those type of things turn out to be true, then it may be embarrassing to the current administration’s constituents, and heaven help us we wouldn’t want to embarrass the president’s constituents,” the Texas Republican said.
Gohmert’s remarks stood apart from the messages from leaders on both sides of the aisle urging that vitriol be put aside.
“This body has yet to fully register the magnitude of this tragedy,” a teary-eyed Boehner said, with several dozen of his colleagues looking on. “We feel a litany of unwanted emotions no resolution could possibly capture. We know that we gather here without distinction of party.”
He added: “The needs of this institution have always risen above partisanship. And what this institution needs right now is strength — holy, uplifting strength.”
Following his speech, a clearly shaken Boehner sat alone in the back of the chamber as other leaders took their turns paying tribute.
While most sought to avoid difficult questions of whether Loughner was motivated by the current poisonous political climate, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) bluntly warned his colleagues that they should pause and reflect on what effect their words have on people like him.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.